Wednesday, July 31, 2019 / 09.00AM / Bukola Akinyele and Nifemi Taiyese for Proshare WebTV
Enhancing Financial Innovation Access, EFInA, a financial development agency hosted its maiden geo-political zonal financial services forum for Agents in Lagos.
It was an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss and interact on how to scale financial inclusion in the country through agents.
The forum brought together bank officials, mobile money vendors, super agents, and other players in the financial sector.
In his opening remarks, the CEO of EFInA, Mr. Essaie Diei, informed stakeholders that the forum was designed to support Agent Banking and make the Nigerian financial system work better especially for the poor, by way of increasing access to financial services.
According to him, the 63.2% of Adults in Nigeria are financially included, while he assured stakeholders that the plan to achieve 80% financial inclusion by 2020 and 95% inclusion by 2024, is still a major priority for EFInA.
Speaking further, Mr. Diei said EFInA supports all the initiatives to grow financial inclusion in the country while deepening service delivery across geo-political zones.
He noted that from the 2018 survey, 26.6m adult Nigerians were financially excluded and close to 36.6m of the adult population did not have access to bank accounts or other means of payment.
The survey also revealed that 3% of adults used bank accounts in the past 12 months, and 1% have used mobile money agents.
It also showed that in the southwest region, 40.2% of the adult population are not aware of having financial access.
He welcomed the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities, SANEF objective which is to distribute over 500,000 financial access points and agents across the country in a bid to help close the gap in financial inclusion.
Diei appreciated women in world banking and the several initiatives embarked upon to improve financial inclusion for women in Nigeria.
He concluded that EFInA is committed to working in with stakeholders, super agents, regulators, and microfinance institutions to grow these initiatives.
Diei stated that in the bid to achieve financial sector development in Nigeria, more organizations should focus on driving financial inclusion.
The SANEF Initiative
Giving her remarks, the CEO of the Shared Agent Network Forum, Mrs. Ronke Kuye, highlighted the role of the network and its mandate of enhancing financial activities in the country.
Describing the forum as first of its kind, the SANEF CEO stressed that more would be done across other geo-political zones, to help recruit more agents to meet their target number.
She further went on to explain the plans and objectives of SANEF in promoting awareness and growth with members of the team travelling across the country to sensitize people on the value of financial services.
Mrs. Kuye assured participants that the feedback from the forum would is documented and deployed as part of the framework, to enhance financial inclusion in the country.
CBN and The Inclusion Imperative
Dr. Paul Oluikpe of the Financial Inclusion Secretariat representing Mr. Joseph Attah of the Central Bank of Nigeria emphasized the need to meet the financial inclusion targets that have been set by different institutions.
Supporting the initiative of SANEF and EFinA, he said there should be greater efforts at enhancing the spread of agents in Nigeria, to enable people to have access to financial services.
“The focus of mobile money banking is around accessibility, simplicity, choice, usage and diversity. These agents must be near the people”. He said.
Attah noted that the CBN advances policy formulation through policy operationalization in a bid to ensure financial inclusion across landscapes in Nigeria.
Giving a presentation on SANEF Mrs. Uche Uzoebo said the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF) started as a project in February 2018 and eventually became incorporated as a company in January 2019.
SANEF, according to her, is an intervention to widen and deepen financial access points and services to increase financial inclusion to 80% by 2020.
Speaking on the plans of SANEF, she said they aim to provide support to super-agents, banks and other stakeholders to acquire agents in all the geo-political zones.
Also working with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement Systems, NIBSS they plan to accelerate and simplify the Bank Verification Number enrolment and to engage with regulatory bodies for favourable policies, and conducive environment for growth.
SANEF also as part of its plans, aims to drive financial literacy and campaign awareness via print, radio, social media, and community engagements, and so on.
Other areas to be explored include; training super agents, working with state governments to reduce levies on the agents, providing basic products, organizing the quarterly forum and work to ensure BVN enrolment.
Mr. Gbekeleoluwa Nubi Nigerian Interbank Systems Settlement (NIBSS) in his presentation gave an update on the BVN enrolment.
He said that BVN enrolment started on February 14, 2014, by Deposit Money Banks and other licensed operators.
Speaking on the EFINA 2016 Survey Report, he informed stakeholders that Nigeria has the highest proportion of financially excluded bank-able adults amongst 8 African countries.
On the essence of BVN enrolment, he said it is to drive financial inclusion and tie multiple accounts to one PIN.
Since its inception, Nigeria has acquired over 40 million unique individual BVNs, and NIBSS, according to Mr. Nubi, has plans to reach a target of 100 million registered BVN by 2024.
From the Bank of Industry one of the largest local development banks, Mr. Oluchi Chiazor, gave insight into the Government Enterprise Empowerment Plan, GEEP that was created in 2016 solely as a scheme for national intervention which has 2.2 million beneficiaries across the six geo-political zones.
They have also been able to create a 1.6 m new mobile wallets. He highlighted data, technology and beneficiaries to be a top priority in the programme. The GEEP, according to him, also made use of people, platform and processes to achieve set objectives.
Giving further figures, he stated that there are over 4,000 agents across the country, particularly in South West who make up 1,200 of that number.
A new service added to their plan is voucher card repayment tool which was launched in early 2019.
By leveraging on agent networks in remuneration, the biggest challenge faced by the scheme was fraud, which technology was addressing.
Speaking further, he said there was a need to innovate and create sustainable solutions, and there was a mandate to start GEEP 2.0, which is a four-year program on national intervention.
Affirming that the agent network is a critical part of scaling financial inclusion in the country, the operators and people at every service deliverable post are needed to ensure the success of the program.